Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Carnival Row Season 1
All of the secrets were laid bare in Carnival Row season 1's ending, as the truth of who was really behind the Darkasher murders was revealed - and it all ties to Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) and his origins. Amazon Prime Video's steampunk fantasy is set in a Victorian magical world where humans are forced to co-exist with Faeries, Pucks, Centaurs, and other magical creatures in a sprawling city called The Burgue. As a series of murders take place around Carnival Row, where the magical creatures are forced to reside, star-crossed lovers Philo and Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevinge), a Faery newly arrived in The Burgue, are reunited.
In Carnival Row's season 1 finale, "The Gloaming", the truth that Philo is half-Faery is discovered. Since Philo is a Critch, which is what humans derisively call magical beings, he's arrested by the Constabulary because it's illegal for a Critch to pose as a human. Philo then comes face-to-face with his father, Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris), who accuses him of being the Darkasher killer who murdered his own mother, Aisling Querelle (Erika Starkova), a Pix singer who fell into destitution. Philo convinces Absalom that he's innocent and the Chancellor sets his son free to find the person truly behind the grisly murders. However, Absalom is attacked at Parliament by a Puck. The Chancellor survives the murder attempt only to be killed by his own wife, Piety (Indira Varma), which forces their son Jacob (Arty Froushan) to become the new Chancellor. Jacob then declares Marshal Law and forces all of the Critch inside Carnival Row, which is turned into a concentration camp.
Carnival Row season 1's ending is full of startling revelations. Not only is the true perpetrator of the Darkasher killings divulged but the truth goes even deeper as long-buried secrets about The Burgue's two most prominent families, the Breakspears and the Longerbanes, come to light. Carnival Row season 1's ending sets the stage for the revolution in The Burgue that will be the story of season 2. Here are all of the hidden truths and secrets of Carnival Row season 1 laid bare.
Who Was Really Behind The Darkasher Murders?
The true culprit behind the Darkasher killings was Piety Breakspear, who was insane. She received a blackmail note allegedly written by Aisling asking for money or else she would reveal the truth about Philo, the Chancellor's bastard son. Using the dark magic she learned from a witch called the Haruspex (Alice Krige), Piety summoned a Darkasher, which is a golem-like creature made up of various body parts. When Aisling was gruesomely murdered, it drew Philo, who was an inspector with the Constabulary, to investigate, and he pursued the Darkasher as it claimed more victims. Piety began the Darkasher murder spree to keep the secret of Absalom's bastard and to protect their son Jacob's claim to the Chancellorship (because even though Chancellors are elected in The Burgue, the law states that if an elected official dies, their offspring must assume the title until the next election).
However, unbeknownst to Piety, she was being manipulated by Sophie Longerbane (Caroline Ford). What's more, Sophie, the only child of the Breakspears' rival Ritter Longerbane (Ronan Vibert), was actually Piety's daughter from an affair she and Ritter had. Sophie grew up in isolation thanks to her father and she was bitter and resentful towards her parents. With nothing but free time and looking to create chaos in The Burgue, Sophie delved into her father's intelligence regarding the Breakspear family, which he kept in case he needed fodder for political blackmail, and she found out Absalom fathered a bastard. Neither Piety nor Sophie knew who Absalom's secret son was, but Sophie knew about Aisling. Sophie was the one who wrote and sent the ransom letter to Piety, which ignited her jealousy and led to her dark magic murder spree.
How The Darkasher Killings Are Tied To Philo's Origin
As Philo investigated the Darkasher killings, he quickly realized that the murders were tied to his very origins. Philo was a half-breed who had his Faery wings cut off when he was a baby. He was placed in an orphanage and never knew who his parents were - until he investigated Aisling's murder and realized she was really his mother. The Darkasher's next two victims were the headmaster of Philo's orphanage and the doctor who cut off Philo's wings when he was a baby; it also turned out the two men were secretly lovers, which is a crime in The Burgue. Piety used the Darkasher to kill the people she knew were linked to Absalom's secret bastard, but she didn't know who Philo was until she kidnapped Vignette and held her hostage, forcing Philo to confront the Darkasher to save Vignette. However, Vignette escaped her confinement and killed Piety, which also killed the Darkasher.
Absalom confessed to Philo that he met Aisling when they were young, at a time when Aisling was celebrated as the most talented singer in Carnival Row. Absalom and Aisling had a passionate love affair, but Absalom's father threatened to have her killed if he didn't end the relationship. Absalom later realized his father was correct because he never would have risen to become Chancellor if he married a Faery singer from Carnival Row. However, Aisling was already pregnant with Philo and Absalom arranged to have her stay at the home of the Spurnroses, another prominent Burgue family, for a time. Soon after he was born, Philo's wings were cut off to allow him to pass as a human, giving him a fighting chance at a better life. Philo kept his secret for his whole life and only his lover Vignette knew the truth he was a half-breed.
After the truth about Philo became public knowledge, he finally decided to identify himself as a Critch, choosing to remain incarcerated with Vignette in Carnival Row season 1's ending rather than remain on the outside without her.
How The Puck Cult And Mr. Agreus Impact Carnival Row Season 1's Ending
The Pucks, who have cloven-hoofed feet and ram horns on their heads, gradually revealed themselves to be a threat to The Burgue in Carnival Row season 1's ending. Pucks are among the most malignly treated creatures by humans, and many of the Pucks joined an extreme religious sect led by Cabal (Theo Barklem-Biggs) that practices public self-flagellation. However, the Pucks also secretly planned to assassinate Chancellor Breakspear; one of them penetrated Parliament, posed as Absalom's assistant, and nearly killed the Chancellor. This set off a wave of anti-Critch hysteria that made life even worse for all of the magical beings in The Burgue.
Meanwhile, Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant) began a love affair with Agreus Astrayon (David Gyashi), a wealthy Puck who moved into the mansion next door and wanted to join The Burgue's high society. The scandal and disgrace that Imogen becoming lovers with Agreus would cause once it becomes publicly known incensed her brother Ezra (Andrew Gower), who tried to kill Agreus and put an end to their affair. Instead, Imogen and Agreus ran away together and escaped the city by ship, just as The Burgue fell under Marshal Law detaining all of the magical beings inside Carnival Row at the end of season 1.
The Dark Secrets Between Sophie Longerbane And Jonah Breakspear Sets Up Season 2
The true victors of Carnival Row season 1's ending are Jonah Breakspear and Sophie Longerbane, who are secretly brother and sister. By the end of Carnival Row season 1, the two children of The Burgue's most prominent families rose to become leaders of their respective political parties: Jonah became Chancellor after his mother Piety murdered Absolom and Sophie assumed her father Ritter's position as leader of the Opposition Party after Piety killed Ritter. Neither Sophie nor Jonah are heartbroken that their parents are dead. In fact, they began their love affair before Jonah found out Sophie was his half-sister because Piety was mother to them both (a fact Sophie already knew). Sophie even offered to become Jonah's wife, which would truly unite their families and consolidate their power over The Burgue, and Jonah didn't relent even after he found out Sophie isn't his sister.
Ultimately, Sophie Breakspear is the cause of all of the calamity in The Burgue in Carnival Row season 1. Sophie set all the ghastly events in motion when she sent the ransom note to Piety; because she was bored, Sophie decided to foster chaos because "chaos creates opportunity". As Sophie explained her actions to Jonah, "Isn't it curious how the stroke of a girl's pen can change the course of history?" Thanks to Sophie's machinations, Jonah has become Chancellor and she is the secret power behind his; Sophie backs Jonah's declaration of Marshal Law and war against all of the Critch in The Burgue, blaming them for Absolom's murder. Thanks to Jonah and Sophie, Carnival Row season 1 ends with Carnival Row itself turned into a concentration camp for all of the Critch and now nothing will ever be the same.
Carnival Row Season 1 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.